Author Topic: Faded Pages  (Read 2734 times)

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Faded Pages
« on: August 15, 2015, 10:30:34 PM »
Dawn approaches in the sleepy hall of worlds for the first time.

Blood red rays of light pierce the gloomy grey darkness of the ages, spilling through the lone, tiny slit of a window set low. On the pedestal at the center of the great space sits a massive book, grey with soot and dust, as is everything in this cavernous chamber of grey brick and grey stone and grey air.

The light creeps downwards, casting light on what should have been eternity. The stone and the soot and the old tattered pages belie a time before, but that can not be, for neither stone nor tome nor dead, stagnant air can remember such a time.

Finally, the light falls upon the book, bathing it in crimson, and for the first time, something stirs in this place. Not much. But enough. A breath, a movement, a whisper, the barest shift in the nature of things, and for a moment, this chamber gleams, straining to remember its past glory, the many worlds full of worlds full of worlds that it used to hold, its shelves stacked high...

But it is only a flash, and the memory of a memory fades like a ghost.

BOOM!

The great stone door reverberates with a great impact, shattering the calm after an eternity of silence. Dust sinks down from above, casting shadows and twinkles into the newfound light. The sound echoes only for a moment before being tamed by the stillness of the chamber.

So much change today.

The door swings slowly open, heavy stone scraping on heavy stone, riding in a well-worn groove until it stops. There is a moment's indecision before a gentle, cool breeze blows in for the first time, an excitable and unusual intrusion. Dust is lifted into the air wholesale, blown about, dancing and twirling joyously.

There, at the door. A figure. It stands, squinting into the low light, its silhouette barely visible against the familiar blackness.

It calls over its shoulder, a shout in a language like music. The sound echoes back through some unseen corridor, its twin playfully entering the chamber and mingling with the dust motes.

In the short time it takes to quell the shout, the figure has stepped into the chamber. It looks around, brow furrowed, as though trying to solve some puzzle. It bends down, draws a finger along the floor, holds it up to see what it has found.

Soot and dust. All here is soot and dust.

With a puzzled look, the figure approaches the center of the room, each footstep a muffled mockery of the stillness of eternity, and yet each footstep also a purveyor of change and of new life.

The figure reaches the pedestal. It looks down. Hesitates. Leans forward. Blows.

A cloud of dust jumps free, racing into the air to join the sunbeam.

The figure coughs and coughs, eyes pressed shut, waving its hand in front of its face as though to ward off the dust, to no avail.

Finally, the coughing subsides, and the figure looks down at the book, at the title, the words, written in a language so long dead that even the stones can not seem to recall...

With shaking hands, the figure lifts the cover, the spine creaking and crackling in protest. The figure pauses to examine the ash, the burnt edges of the first page.

The first page is blank. Though the brittle, yellowed paper glows a deep red in the light, nothing appears to be printed on its surface between the scorch marks.

The figure turns the page, gently, gingerly, as though afraid the tome of eternity will simply crumble into dust.

The second page is blank as well.

With growing confusion, the figure turns the pages, one after the other. Blank. Blank. Blank. All of them blank.

The figure sighs. Looks around. Looks back at this page. Becomes lost in thought, and eternity once again begins to settle in.

The figure starts, taking notice of the page! Looks more closely, but whatever was there appears to have gone. Whatever movement, whatever glimpse of the sky and the sea had been on the page moments ago is nowhere to be found. Whatever sound of seagulls and ships' bells and the shouts of sailors have disappeared as if they were never there at all.

The figure examines the book again, thoroughly. Perhaps it was imagined. But it had seemed so real.

At length, the figure leans over, trying to find the page with the sea and the sky, but it's no use. The blank pages with the burned edges all look the same. Finally, the figure settles on a page near the middle that seems about right.

The figure stares at the page, willing the images to come back, willing that brief glimpse of... of something... into being.

Time passes. Nothing happens.

The figure sighs. Perhaps it was only an illusion. The figure turns to the door and calls out again, words echoing and dying away. The figure stares absently in the page, finger tracing swirls in the dust of the pedestal. Becomes lost in thought.

There it is again! The movement, the sounds. This time, the figure doesn't stir, doesn't even focus fully on the page, simply observes. The images become more and more real, and it is as though there is an entire world being glimpsed through the page. The distinction between book and chamber and images blurs, until soon the chamber itself is forgotten, and it is as though the world within is all that exists...



The Grained

Daniel steps off the train and looks around the platform. There are very few people here; most have just gotten off the train, and the rest, from the look of it, are probably homeless, sleeping under the various benches.

At least, he hopes they're only homeless.

He watches for a moment as the train pulls away, its sleek silver cars picking up speed, rocketing off into the overgrown fields. Though the towering cornstalks are still visible above the sea of grasses, it's clear nobody's been tending these fields for quite some time, and the golden-brown stalks of the rolling plains have begun to claim the fields as their own.

Daniel sets his heavy briefcase on the concrete and adjusts his windbreaker against the chilly breeze. It's clear his contact isn't here yet.

He allows his gaze to wander back towards the city. It's been more than a year since he's been out here, and he's shocked at how much more bare the frame of the crashed Super Pool Ship looks. Before, where once the solid, intimidating three-legged spider shape had loomed menacingly over the skyline of what had once been called Kansas City, there are now very obviously chunks missing, and light shows through holes in the structure. Even at this distance, the evidence of the human influence on the huge structure is finally becoming evident. Mere weeks before, the first Leg had been removed, and even now is being studied and then broken down into its components.

The Super Pool Ship has provided the materials to build the wall that keeps them them safe, has provided the resources and the beginnings of the technologies they use every day in what some believe to be the last civilized city on Earth.

He shudders as he remembers, years ago, the beginnings of the open war. He'd never believed in aliens, never believed that a race of slugs could be slowly and methodically infiltrating human society, until he'd seen the president and that "Jake" calling for calm in the wake of the catastrophe. The Yeerks could be beaten, they'd claimed.

But the catastrophe... something had gone wrong in the Yeerks' plan, or in the plan of those 'Animorphs.' Something had gotten out of hand, and shots had been taken. An aircraft carrier had been sunk. A nuclear weapon had been launched, and then the Yeerks had destroyed what was left of LA from orbit. Millions upon millions, gone in an instant.

And that had only been the beginning. The world had been devastated, city after city falling to the Yeerks or being decimated. It wasn't until the widespread use of the oatmeal, until its airborne deployment, that the tide had turned.

Ah, the oatmeal. The very thing that had saved humanity had turned out to be its undoing. Nearly every Yeerk had been forced to take some in one form or another, and it had driven them crazy. The hosts and the humans were no longer separable, nor would it have mattered; all they'd wanted was oatmeal. Society the world over had collapsed as the roving gangs of The Grained, as the news media had taken to calling them, scoured the world in search of the one particular variety of maple and ginger oatmeal. The infrastructure had collapsed, and The Grained had been seen literally tearing buildings apart on the mere suspicion of an oatmeal packet.

The work the Yeerks had started had been finished by Oatmeal.

Eventually the majority of the unaffected survivors had gathered together at the site of the crashed Pool Ship-- they'd renamed the city Oatmealopolis, and had managed to hold off the roving bands of Grainers until the wall had gone up. According to the Mayor, it will be completed in roughly a month, and then they can work on getting the television and communications networks back online.

Traveling outside the wall is risky at best. Aside from the chances of drawing the attention of the secret police, there's always the danger of being ripped apart by Grained.

The only train that still runs exists only as a way for the private military to check on the various settlements, encourage them to move to the city- many still refuse, citing... seemingly unsavory practices by the government and the self-declared mayor.

The Grained, it seems, slowly devolve or deteriorate somehow once they're away from the oatmeal. Their body goes into an energy conservation mode, and their mental state deteriorates until all they can think about is the oatmeal. They don't sleep, they eat only what they need to in order to stay alive, often in the form of raw meat or even old garbage, and their metabolism alters to the point that one can survive for months on a single meal. Their skin becomes clammy and pale, and they lose all capacity for language or any higher cognition.

Their sole purpose for existing seems to be tearing people apart. Any normal human, anyone with regular skin-tone and the look of the living about them, is in danger. The Grained will tear a person limb-from-limb and then check every broken bone and every scattered belonging for even a single flake of Instant Maple and Ginger Oatmeal.

Between the Yeerks, the Oatmeal, and the roving Grained, there is very little left of what humanity once was. Human settlements outside of Oatmealopolis are still in grave danger-- news came in earlier today about a town ripped apart by a mob of Grained. The regular humans out here are often twitchy and violent as well-- with good reason. When a Grained is chasing after you, you tend to shoot first and ask questions later, and the bands of roving thieves don't help matters much.

Add to this the rumors of a growing population of actual Controllers somewhere in China, and the world seems pretty damn well shot, Daniel thinks with a snort.

There. An old-school Jeep bounces down heavily pitted and ill-repaired road that runs in front of the station. That will be his contact.

Daniel lifts his case of oatmeal packets, glances around once more for Grained or potential thieves or secret police, and steps forward, waving his arm at the Jeep.

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Offline Chad32

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2015, 02:40:40 PM »
Roger was a pretty big man, in his prime. That's the main reason he lasted so long outside where the Grained were. Those who weren't crazy tended to stay away from a big guy who did all he could to look as mean and possibly deranged as possible. Thick black leather clothes, a bloodied machete at his side, and a gun strapped to his back. As for the ones who were crazy, he just had to think smarter than they were and hope the next Grained wasn't pushing over six feet and sporting iron biceps.

On the inside he was a nice guy. Helped people out, when they didn't run at the sight of him. Sometimes he'd get a job guarding someone and their stuff, like now. His current job was helping a guy take a jeep to someone named Daniel. He wasn't sure why, and he didn't care as long as he got paid.


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Offline Aluminator (Kit)

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2015, 11:42:43 PM »
Daniel steps up to the jeep as it pulls in, eyeing the people inside. He sure as heck wouldn't want to mess with the driver. Dude looks tough as nails, and maybe just a little unhinged.

"The fat crow sits happy on this fine day," he says, his code for verifying that these are, in fact, the people he's looking for. His eyes rove between the vehicle's occupants, wondering who will be the one to respond.

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Offline Chad32

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2015, 09:43:47 AM »
Roger took a second to remember what he was supposed to say. "The elephant soars high, good crow."

There were a lot of people there, sleeping or milling about. He kept a close eye on them, and kept the jeep locked. This was stressful work, sometimes, which was the reason the pay was good. On the good side, being on edge helped in his attempts t look intimidating. He was almost always frowning and tense. It was getting harder and harder to find places and activities to allow him to relax, which is as much of a basic need as food and water.

He kind of kept an eye on Daniel too, but didn't stare at him too hard. You don't want to run off the guy you're supposed to make an exchange with. It was a delicate balance between making sure they don't swindle you, but also making sure they don't just bolt out of there.


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Offline Luke Skywalker (Ossanlin)

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2015, 05:26:38 PM »
Some distance off, a figure in a worn black trenchcoat rolls up a small scroll and tucks it back into his belt-pouch.  "Well...halleluja."  He removes a pair of binoculars from the pouch and zooms them in on the man with the briefcase, now speaking with the rather robust driver of the Jeep that had rolled up.  "So you're the ones who'll lead me to the fragment."  He subconsciously pats the pouch at his waist which contains the scroll.  Chase had been in this Page for too long...he could feel it starting to leech into him.  He would have to Flip soon or he'd risk losing his true identity to Jamison Allegheny...the role which the Calligrapher had drawn him into for this Hell of a Page...
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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2015, 02:13:13 PM »
Daniel nods, satisfied, and walks around to the passenger's side door. As he climbs in, he considers, and not for the first time, that this may be a trap, but he shakes his head in amusement. This meet-up has been weeks in the making. If somebody wants him this badly, they can have him. There are easier ways to kill a man in this day and age. Unless they want the Oatmeal badly enough to kill for it... and no human should want Oatmeal that badly.

If they give him trouble, it's not like he's going down without a fight, he thinks, feeling the comforting weight of his pistol at his left side, and of the large knife strapped to his right.

He glances at the brute of a driver, not sure if he should be trying to make conversation. He avoids looking in the back seat altogether; he was nearly killed over something very similar the last time he was on one of these rendezvous, and though that was a different group of people, it's made him paranoid.

Finally, as the Jeep pulls away and heads towards... towards wherever it is they're taking him... he says "My name's Daniel," in a quiet, hopefully inoffensive tone.

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Offline Chad32

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2015, 05:30:33 PM »
"I'm Roger", he said. He drove as smoothly as possible down a road that hadn't seen service in quite some time. He could tell Daniel was packing, but it was ok. Everyone with half a brain was packing a little something nowadays. Roger drove along, making a few wide circles and checking the mirror for anyone trying to follow. They weren't moving much over thirty five mph.

He noticed his passenger was feeling a bit awkward. Hopefully that was just a bit of fear, and not because he was trying to build up the courage to pull something. "I'm not as mean as I look." He said. He wasn't planning to open up too much, but he didn't want the guy to just sit there shaking the whole time. "You want some tunes? I have a CD."


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Offline Luke Skywalker (Ossanlin)

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2015, 01:28:17 AM »
Chase mounts his old Harley-Davidson style motorcycle as the briefcase wielder hops into the vehicle.  He kicks a couple of times to get the motorcycle running and takes off along the ridge he'd been observing from.  He tries to stay far enough back that the ridge will cover him, but it's not as high as he'd like.  He darts toward the edge every once in awhile just make a passing glimpse on the Jeep before swerving back out of sight.  In the past, he'd tried to simply inveigle himself with the right people, according to Truth...sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  All Truth told him here was that he needed to be near these people...that was a somewhat common one.  But Truth Fragments were fickle things.  Often one had to be in the right place at the right time to capture it...if he missed his opportunity, he'd have to come back to this page again later.  That had only happened a couple of times, and he couldn't afford to waste time so stupidly.

The Truth Fragment in this Page apparently revolved around this group of people...an event that they would precipitate or participate in.  Whatever it was, the Fragment was the only thing that lent any reality to this Page at all...the only reason it could exist within the Book.  Every Page in the Book had to contain a grain of truth, or it ceased to exist.  Perhaps he would find an opportunity to get in with these individuals...whate ver the case, he'd merely have to have Truth in the right spot at the right time and it would record the Fragment.

The personality of Jamison rears its head in the back of Chase's mind, pushing.  These people were useful to him, but only as far as a means to an end.  He needed to get what he needed to get, and then leave as soon as he could.  Jamison wasn't a man of lasting relationships.

His short, straight hair ruffles in the wind as he picks up speed to keep abreast of the driving Jeep.
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Offline Aluminator (Kit)

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2015, 03:15:39 PM »
"Roger," says Daniel, keeping his gaze straight ahead. He smiles. The last group he met with had all taken on absurd nicknames. What kind of person thought "Bloodbludgeon" sounded cool?

On the other hand, he thinks, at least that group had only wanted automatic weapons. The substance in the briefcase in his lap is generally considered far more dangerous.

He hears a sound, echoing off the low, rolling rises... it sounds like a motor, maybe a helicopter or motorcycle, but it lasts only a second. He frowns. Probably just the jeep's motor.

"Rough road," he comments. "My spine is going to feel this tomorrow." He lets out a short laugh. "So, Roger," he asks, launching into his favorite conversation starter, "what'd you do... y'know... before?"

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Offline Chad32

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2015, 07:29:54 PM »
"I try not to think too much about...before. I worked out. Made money in construction, and other manly things that required heavy lifting and running around. Sometimes when a boy wants to hurry into manhood, he drinks his milk, gets himself a weight room, and works outside. I studied hard, too. The brain is an important muscle as well. I didn't get a chance to go to college. Honestly it's almost a wonder I avoided the Yeerks. I guess I just didn't have time for social events like Sharing meetings between work, school, and friends."

He had been checking the rear view mirrors, and could have sworn he saw the same motorcycle pass into view twice. Maybe it was just paranoia, or maybe they really were being followed.


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Offline Luke Skywalker (Ossanlin)

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2015, 05:38:19 PM »
Chase picks out a strange plume of dust puffing up from the other side of the road of the Jeep...that didn't look good.  Finally he sees an old, derelict-looking Bug lumbering its way into the air where it had been concealed from the road in a dip.  "Just what I needed..."  At least it looked like the cannons had been stripped from it...still...Bug vs. Jeep?...and if the people in that Bug had managed to keep it flying this long, they probably weren't "Grainers."  And they probably knew how to fight. 

He keeps pace still quite some distance away from the Jeep on the other side of the road from the Bug and doesn't reveal himself...maybe the Bug was a coincidence.  'Fat chance...'  The thoughts of Jamison bubbling up.  He limbers Roulette from the holster at his side...for this Page, it had taken the form of a simple Dracon hand-weapon.  This reality had never allowed for the sharing and development of technology he'd witnessed on other Pages.
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Offline Chad32

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2015, 06:14:08 PM »
"Oh crap." Roger said when he saw an old bug fighter come into view from the nearby ruins. "I've never seen one of those up close. I am not equipped for this." He started thinking about his options. He didn't have a rocket launcher.  If the space ship was anywhere as fast as it could be, there was no way the jeep would outrun it. Luckily it didn't seem to have guns, but it could still ram the jeep. There was a grove of trees not too far away, so he made for them.

"Buckle up. It's about to get bumpy. I'm making for the trees i the hopes of forcing them to land and try to take us on foot." The bug wasn't really that big, so he wasn't looking at many people. Four or five, tops? Plus the guy on the motorcycle. At worst, he was heading right into an ambush of people hiding in the woods.

The jeep went off the road, bumping along all the more as he hit the gas. The shocks were quite good, though, since jeeps were designed for off-road travel.


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Offline Aluminator (Kit)

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2015, 08:53:02 PM »
Daniel looks worriedly out the window as the jeep bounces along. "I was really-- ooof! I was really hoping that was one of yours," he shouts to Roger. If Roger doesn't recognize the Bug, it can only be bad news, especially now that they're running. There's no way whoever's piloting will let them off that easily.

And if they figure out what was in his briefcase... it won't matter if they were planning on being hostile or not, if they find the oatmeal, Daniel might be better off being caught by the Grained.

"Gun it!" he shouts. He sees what Roger was trying to do-- they'll have to get lucky, though. If the Dracons work on that ship, they're toast-- not that thieves would want to fry whatever they could steal, but still, very difficult to drive with a melted engine block. And they'll need another few seconds before the Bug notices where they're going-- a jeep is no match for a Bug fighter, even one as run-down looking as this one.

Daniel curses as the Bug turns towards the trees, drifts lazily in front of them, and moves to cut them off. It settles, low to the ground, directly in their path. Before he knows it, his sidearm is in his hand, aimed out the window at the thing.

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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2015, 09:27:21 PM »
"I messed up this time." Roger said. Somehow he figured he should have been able to see this coming. what had he missed that would have prevented such an ambush. The treeline was too far, as the bug was just too fast. He turned the jeep, and tried to think of something.

"I have a gallon jug of gas in the back. Try to grab it, open it up, and throw it at their windshield." He said. though windshield may not be an accurate term for the window a spaceship piloted uses to look out of. "Use your gun to light it up, and that may blind them. Hurry!"

It was a desperate idea, and they had precious little time before the bug pilot just decided to knock the vehicle over. In the meantime, he just had to play keep-away.


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Re: Faded Pages
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2015, 06:31:59 PM »
"This is nuts," mutters Daniel, grabbing the jug from the back. It's plastic and only about two-thirds full, so not ideal, but it might work for what Roger has in mind. He grabs an oil-soaked rag from the floor at his feet, rips the top off the jug, and jams the rag inside. He fumbles for a moment, then pulls a lighter from his pocket.

"Drive close to them," he shouts at Roger. He flicks the lighter several times before he gets a wavering flame, which he holds to the rag until it ignites. He probably has on the order of seconds before this makeshift gasoline Molotov ****tail explodes in his hands.

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